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There are many reasons that someone would feel motivated to go to therapy. Here are just a few: 7 REASONS TO GO TO THERAPY 1) Harmful thoughts or behaviors. Suicide and self-harm are completely preventable with treatment by a licensed professional. If you’re thinking of hurting yourself immediately, seek help right away through the CONFIDENTIAL National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or the Crisis Text Line. Both are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! 2) Relationships or No Relationship. Do you have difficulties with a family member, marriage, friend, frienemies, boss? Or, dislike being around people? Maybe, you’re feeling lonely or isolated from others? This is your social health, and it can impact your mental health. Research has also shown that in this global technological age, we are also lonier then ever! It may seem more common that individuals can have GREAT text-conversations, yet struggle holding a conversataion longer then 5-minutes. Nowadays, medication seems to be the answer. We medicate in many differnt ways (e.g., medication pills, numbing with social media/gaming/sex/work), and there’s no doubt that medication can help you think or feel better. However, medication can’t teach you who or how to be in relationships, how to deal with conflict, or how to forgive. Medication simply treats the symptoms, while therapy treats the problem. 3) Work or No work. This is one of the most common areas of dissatisfactions for Americans. Research studies show that 70% of Americans are unhappy with their job. When we consider that we work 40-50 hours a week, that estimates to being ¼ to ½ of their time! So, that leaves us to question that, if 70% of the nation is dissatisfied with a dominant and essential part of their identity, is there any question why we have many who are experiencing feelings of anxiety, depreesion, and addiction (i.e., to alcohol, drugs, or other numbing agent)? In contrast, being unemployed can also impact housing stability, self-esteem, and attaining basic resources. At some point, EVERY therapist (not just career counselors) helps people explore their career choice, unemployment, alter their approach to their work or co-workers, and either accept or change their career choices. During therapy, some goals may be that work no longer feels like a burden or struggle, or, finding ways to better maneuver around work obstacles. 4) Mediocre to Poor Physical Health. How’s your sleep? Do you get sick often? Are you feeling tired all the time? Do you have a chronic illness? Are you taking medications for something? Have you been injured, in a car accident, or in physical pain? Do you get headaches frequently? When individuals experience difficulties with physical health, it often impacts a sense of balance, independence, or self-esteem. Many studies have also shown the relationship between physical health and emotional well-being. So, it would be a significant and wise choice to consider additional support with therapy when your physical health may have been impacted. 5) Emotions & No emotions. Overwhelming emotions, or inability to express emotions? Therapy can help make sense of any, all, and not having any emotions. Often times, individuals, couples, and families find themselves coming to therapy when emotions lead to saying hurtful things, making regrettable choices, or when painful actions emerge from it. Sometimes, when we’re feeling overwhelmed, we might withdraw from things that used to bring us joy. Or using alcohol, weed, or other things to numb and cope. Therapy is the perfect place to be, and learn how to manage strong emotions. Also, there are many more who may have been taught to hide, ignore, and push away their emotions to the point that they do not know how to express it. Therapy is also a great place to help with that as well! 6) For Loved Ones. If you are an altruistic person, you may think a lot about how your emotions or actions impact others. Would improving communication, understanding your emotions, reparing boundaries, becoming more empathetic, or expressing your feelings better help with your relationships? Perhaps there’s remnants of generational trauma in the family relationships that are impacting the closeness with each other? We also know that culturally, Filipinos and Filipino Americans are often very community and family-oriented. Relationships ― no matter what kind ― are hard work. You’re not expected to have all the answers. While there’s generational trauma, there may also be generational healing that therapy can help you bring out. 7) For Yourself. Do you feel like you’re living the best life you can live? Have you ever wondered if you’re fulfilling your purpose, or living intentionally? Would you like to feel more content, more connected with others? Perhaps, therapy can help you gain more insight about the past, gain clarity about the present, or feel more courageously confident about the future? When you feel well, healed, and happy, that may resonate outwards. Therapy can be your place for well-being!

No worries at all! You don’t need to know what to talk about before you come. In therapy, people examine whether there are ways they think, feel and/or behave that they can improve. Your therapist will help you identify goals, topics, and areas of concern.

Friends and family can provide wonderful support and empathy, and that’s often enough to help us through difficult times. And they may also be reasons for the stress, triggers, or even obstacles to your well-being and mental health. A therapy or counseling relationship is different in a very important way: in a friendship or family relationship, the needs, expectations, or even feelings of both people must be attended to. While friends and family can be great sources of support, they can be quick to give advice and often dive right into “fix it mode.” You may often hear statements, “Well, that happened to me and I did X, Y and Z. You really should try that, it worked for me.” When this happens, the focus of the conversation is shifted away from you and your unique experience. Their advice is from their worldview which may not resonate with you or apply to your specific situation. When you disclose problems to friends and family a variety of negative reactions could surface, such as “the “I told you so” response if you don’t follow their advice, or simply feeling misunderstood after sharing. Additionally, disclosing vulnerable information can often result in feeling judged by the listening party. Avoid putting yourself in a position where you’re judged for something you’re going through. People tend to remember the one negative thing you share in contrast to the ten positive things. You never know when someone may surface information from the past that you’ve longed moved on from. In therapy, the focus is solely on you and about you. The therapist is an expert about emotions, relationships, and also trained to use therapeutic techniques to help you navigate difficult experiences. The therapist that fits for you will be able to be the cheerleader, supporter, challenger or guide in your process. Moreover, therapist are trained for a multitude of mental health concerns; meaning, no topic is too taboo, no shame, no guilt, and no judgement.

There is a common feeling of shame and guilt that may be passed down through family members about sharing things outside of the family. Or, there are misconceptions that family “should” be all you ever need. Therapists are sensitive and respectful of concerns about family traditions and privacy. If conflicts about loyalty to family and culture are of concern, these issues can be discussed in the first session before more personal matters are addressed. In therapy, the only stranger is your therapist. There’s no crowd of strangers, and the therapist upholds a strict and ethnical code of confidentiality. Plus, the focus of therapy is solely on you and about you. The therapist is an expert about emotions, relationships, and also trained to use therapeutic techniques to help you navigate difficult experiences. The therapist that fits for you will be able to be the cheerleader, supporter, challenger or guide in your process. Moreover, therapist are trained for a multitude of mental health concerns; meaning, no topic is too taboo, no shame, no guilt, and no judgement.

YES! The effects of therapy is huge – physical symptoms can be alleviated, families thrive, and even company’s are realize that profits sore when their employees are healthier and happier. The benefits of therapy has been found to help with several things (see question before this too…):

  • Help you deal with unpredictable future obstacles
  • No longer needing to self-medicate
  • Enables you to teach the next generation to continue to progress
  • No longer feeling haunted by past mistakes, trauma, or repressed emotions 
  • Feeling more connected to others
  • Feeling more connected to your dreams, goals, and happiness

In therapy, the focus is solely on you and during this dialogue about you, your therapist is trained to use therapeutic techniques to help you. Therapy is often the fastest, most effective route to overcome emotional and behavioral issues that keep you from really thriving. Sometimes, you can get better on your own, but in most cases you’ll get better results, faster, with a therapist. Professionally certified therapists are experts in how humans process thoughts and emotions. Whether you want to learn tools to manage stress, get to the roots of problems or concerns, build skills to be a better leader, figure out your purpose in life, or help lessen feelings of anxiety, they’ll help you do that. A good therapist is like a personal trainer–like going to the gym for your mind. The therapists LOVE to listen and talk to you about whatever is stressing you out! That’s why we offer their services – we WANT to help! It’s not a bother at all. Period.

Talking can actually do a lot of good. Discussing something with someone who cares about you and who is not judgmental helps relieve the emotional pressure caused by keeping our thoughts and feelings to ourselves. Also, therapy involves much more than just talking. Therapy provides a way for us to understand who we are and how we relate to the world around us. In therapy, we focus our attention on aspects of our experience that we may have been previously unaware of. This provides new ways of looking at our problems and this often gives us new ways to handle these problems.

On the contrary, examining previously suppressed concerns and worries helps dissipate the pain and intensity and helps us understand our problems better. Counseling provides a forum for exploring choices, which produces better decision making.

While you are the expert of your own life, sometimes that experience can also be the reason you may be stuck. Akin to looking at a painting two inches from your face, it may be hard to see the bigger picture from that distance. When you experience difficult situations in your life, it’s often hard to see alternative solutions beyond the currently difficult stressor in front of you. Therapy can widen your perspective and provide distance between you and your problem, helping to approach and eventually overcome the stressor impacting your wellbeing.

Counselors/Therapists: Masters of Arts/Masters of Science Description: Master’s degree (2-3) year program in clinical psychology, counseling psychology, or marriage & family therapy A counselor or therapist is a person who may hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and in a position to give advice, training, or therapeutic space for individuals. Positions may include substance use counselors, victim’s advocates, or child development counselors for children with autism. Healer: A healer is a person who may hold spiritual space for an individual. Often, healers may also be known as pastors/clergy, indigenous shamans, or babaylans; these individuals may be positioned as mediums who are connected to a spiritual or higher realm, and integrate this into their practice and space. Psychiatrist: Medical Degree (MD) Description: Medical degree (4-5 years) with a specialty in psychiatry Psychiatrists are able to diagnose a mental health issue, and prescribe any necessary medication. Some psychiatrists provide therapy to their patients, but usually provide diagnosis and medication management. Psychiatrists may refer their patients to psychologists or counselors for therapy. Psychologist: Doctorate degree in philosophy (PhD) (6-7 years) or Doctorate degree in psychology (PsyD) (4-5 years) Description: Doctoral degree in either clinical or counseling psychology A psychologist with a Ph.D. is the traditional degree of practicing, academic, and research psychologists. A psychologist with a Psy.D. is offered to those individuals interested exclusively in the practice of psychology. It’s focus tends to be more clinically-oriented than the traditional Ph.D. Psychologists are qualified to diagnose mental health issues, conduct psyhcological assessents and testing, but not prescribe medication without additional training. Social Worker: Master of Social Work/Doctorate of Philosophy Description: Master’s (2-3 years) or doctoral degree (4-5 years) in social work Social workers can either have a Masters degree (MSW) or doctoral degree (PhD). Some also may be licensed by the state and hold a Licensure in Clinical Social Work (LCSW). Most social work students go into careers as social workers, and often work within county or state department work.

For some people, knowing their degrees help give a sense of understanding of the person’s credentials and specializations. Having a degree can also indicate the year’s of formal education the person has put into their career area. Having a “licensure” indicates that a governing board has ensured that the licensed practitioner has been verified to hold a certain level of standard quality of care for patients or clients. In other words, if the therapist is licensed, this indicates that the person is held to an ethical and legal system in place to protect the well-being of clients. How much these letters translate into the therapy space differs based on “fit.” “Fit” means that the there is a connection and professional relationship that works well between the therapist and client. Each therapist is different, and can wholly depend on how the client and therapist match. Think of any relationship situation – you may not match well with every person you may meet, AND you may match well and connect with others. Sometimes, therapy is like that. Sometimes, the letters matter, and sometimes it matters more about “fit.”

Therapy can be expensive if you’re paying out-of-pocket; and, it may be frusting when you’re looking for a therapist and they don’t take insurance. There are many reason therapists (at least, in the United States) why insurance isn’t accepted. The top four reasons are:

  • Less confidentiality 
  • Insurance-Driven Treatment versus Therapeutically-appropriate Treatment 
  • Higher insurance premiums 
  • Questionable quality
  • To read more about this, check out this great article

While ample science-based evidence is behind various types of therapies, the process of therapy is largely an art. Every client is different, and with these differences of needs, the amount of time they engage with therapy varies. Personally, I operate from the perspective of ‘this is your therapy’ and you get to choose. If a client is in crisis, then I take high care in ensuring that the most ethnical and thoughtful care is given to my clients. I may suggest meeting weekly until things become more stable. Once the crisis passes, we move to bi-weekly or even monthly. It depends on what the client chooses as well as what is in their best interest therapeutically. Ethically, a therapist wouldn’t want a client to have to come forever. The overall goal is that people feel better and carry what they learned in therapy into their daily practices. Once clients ‘graduate’ from seeing their therapist, many treat therapy as an option in their health toolbox – just like you go to your medical physician when you get the flu, the chiropractor after a car accident, or your dentist for a teeth cleaning, the therapist can be someone to check-in with when necessary.

First off, therapists usually offer free or low-cost consultations, so this is a GREAT chance for the client AND therapist to see if there is a good “fit!” This means that the therapist AND the client can ask each other questions to gauge if they’re able to work well together. So while you can ask anything you want, the following are some sample questions that you may think are important to ask. No, you don’t have to ask all of them. Take note of the ones that align with what’s important for you when looking for a therapist About the therapist:

  • What’s your personal experience in therapy? Or, what should I expect therapy sessions will be like? 
  • Where did you go to school, and what did you study?
  • What makes you qualified to treat [my concern, specific diagnosis, topic]?
  • Do you specialize in [my concern, specific diagnosis, topic]?
  • What makes you a specialist?
  • Have you helped many people with similar concerns/goals? 
  • Who are you? (e.g., Are you married? Do you have kids? How long have you been a therapist? Are you from this city?)
  • Where were you born and raised? 
  • Do you see a therapist? About their therapy approach & process:
  • What is the typical outcome I might expect? 
  • Am I good fit? Why? 
  • What type of treatment styles will you use? 
  • What’s your approach Can you explain those treatment styles to me?
  • Will we talk about my family and relationship history?
  • How important is it for you to know about my past? 
  • How will I know therapy is working?
  • How soon should I feel changes? 
  • Will therapy hurt? Will I feel better or worse after sessions? 
  • Who talks more? You or me?
  • Are you a confrontational therapist?
  • Do I have to do things outside of therapy, and will you give me homework? 
  • Have you experienced my issue in your personal life? 
  • How often do I have to see you? 
  • How do I prepare for the first session? About cost & fees: 
  • How much will it cost?
  • Do you accept Venmo, PayPal, Stripe, Apple Pay?
  • Do you accept my insurance?
  • Do I deal with my insurance or do you? 
  • What’s your policy on canceling sessions?
  • Do you take (name your insurance)? If so, what paperwork do you need from me, and how much is covered
  • Do you only take “out-of-pocket”? If so, how much per session? 
  • What are your sliding scale fee options?

The reality is that the mental health profession is predominantly made up of white people. If you’re Filipino, Filipino American, Filipinx, a person of color and you are seeing a white therapist, it may be important to ask as many questions as possible in order to feel like the therapist is culturally competent. Sometimes, it may help to have a therapist who shares your cultural perspectives, or ethnic identity. This sometimes feel better so as to eliminate extra time having to explain things, or worry if there are outsider-biases to navigate. Questions about Filipino/a/x competency:

  • Have you worked with Filipino/a/x clients before? 
  • What makes you qualified to work with a Filipino/a/x client?
  • What have you done to learn about Filipino/a/x history, culture, experiences? 
  • How are you continuing to learn about my culture? Questions about Social Justice, Lifestyle, & Cultural Perspectives: 
  • What are your political views? 
  • Do you vote Republican, Democrat, Green Party, Independent, etc…?
  • Are you politically progressive or conservative? 
  • Are you a sports fan?
  • What’s your favorite team? 
  • Are you religious? If so, how do you practice your religion?
  • Do you believe in God?
  • Are you a vegan, vegetarian or meat-eater? 
  • What kind of music are you into? 
  • Who did you vote for?
  • Are you a feminist?
  • What are your views on social justice?
  • What are you doing when you’re not a therapist? 
  • Are you pro-choice?
  • What are your feelings about our current president?
  • As a person of color, why should I trust you?
  • How do you think psychology has been impacted by white supremacy and privilege? 
  • Do you operate from a racial justice framework? How did you learn about that framework? 
  • What are your thoughts on white privilege?
  • How do you experience and handle your own white fragility? 
  • How do you experience and handle your own male privilege and male fragility? 
  • Do you believe that racism exists?
  • Would you feel uncomfortable if I talked about how white people have been racist to me?
  • How would you feel if I talked bout how much I can’t stand white people sometimes? Would you be offended?
  • Do you have Filipino/a/x/ supervisors or therapists of color that you consult with?
  • Do you speak any other languages? Questions about being LGBTQ+ competent: 
  • What are your pronouns?
  • What is your experience working with the queer community? 
  • What is your gender identity? 
  • What is your sexual identity?
  • Does your gender identity match your biological gender?
  • Have you ever treated a queer or trans person before? 
  • What is your understanding of diverse sexualities and gender identities?
  • If the therapist is queer: what was your coming out process like?
  • Do you think being gay is a choice?
  • Do you think homosexuality can be “cured?” 
  • How do you feel talking about gay sex? This isn’t a complete list of questions, nor is it specifically focused on your own unique interests and situation. Take some time to come up with a few questions that may incorporate your specific reasons for therapy as well.

Contrary to popular (yet, outdated) beliefs, cartoon reels, or comic strips, laying on a couch has not been a wide-spread practice for over a century. On the first session, clients usually come into an office (that’s usually quite comfortable) and talk to the therapist. Sometimes, the therapist will have a plan for what to talk about during that session; at other times, the client drives the conversation. In many therapy sessions, the session usually starts with the therapist going over basic paperwork, introductions to their practice, limits of confidentiality, or other “get-to-know-you” type conversations. Then, the client tells me about what has been happening for them, why they’re seeking therapy, or what’s happened since our last session. For returing sessions, we check in on any changes since the last time we talked, any practices of “homework” that was suggested. Then, we go into anything the client wants to talk about. I ask the client if there is anything they want to talk about. This is your therapy, so again you get to choose and work with your therapist to tailor it to your unique needs.

It’s like the Vegas-rule. In general, YES, whatever you say in therapy, stays in therapy! However, it’s much more ethical, moral, and legal then Vegas. Meaning, there are times when a therapist is legally obligated to break confidentiality:

  • Harm to self or others. If a therapist believes that you are in imminent danger of hurting yourself or someone else, a family member, police or ambulance will be called to ensure safety.
  • A child under the age of 16 or elder adult in care is in danger. In these cases, Family and Children’s Services or the police will be called. Your files are subpoenaed by the court or by the College of Registered Psychotherapists.
  • A client experienced a health emergency during a session. In this case, medical staff would be provided only with the necessary information. No information about why a client is in therapy will be shared.

I know it may feel weird seeing your therapist out of context. Like many other therapists, I like to communicate to my clients that I like to ensure confidentiality going into the community. Meaning, if I see clients in the community, I will not initiate a contact or say “hello.” It’s not that I am ashamed, don’t want to say “hello,” or have mal-intent – I do this to honor the client’s privacy and in avoiding any awkwardness when they may be with someone that they do not want to explain who I am in relationship to them. If the client wants to say “hello,” I am happy to acknowledge and engage with them. Likewise, if the client does not want to engage, I completely respect that as well.

If you’ve already had your consultation, met with a few therapists already, or trying to figure out if it’s a right match, here are some questions that might be helpful to reflect on:

  • Do you feel like the therapist is skilled at your specific concern? 
  • Do you feel emotionally and physically safe? 
  • Does it seem like you could trust this person? 
  • Do you like how they carry themselves?
  • Do you think they ask good questions?
  • Do you feel like you’re able to be challenged in a good way during therapy?
  • Does it feel like you’re learning something new about yourself?
  • Do they seem knowledgeable and competent? 
  • Do you like them and enjoy spending time with them?
  • Are they setting the right tone? 
  • Does the office feel comfortable? 
  • Does it feel confidential?
  • Do you feel distracted and not engaged?
  • Do you want to stay and talk or are you counting down the minutes until you can leave?
  • Do you feel heard and understood?
  • Does the therapist seem empathetic to your situation? If you don’t get a good feeling overall, talk to your therapist about this. Often times, they are more than happy to receive this feedback. Personally and professionally, I truly value knowing feedback. Just like you might not like being ghosted by others, therapists value open and honest conversations too. If you keep feeling uncomfortable after working with multiple therapists, then you may be the common denominator. Which is incredibly common and nothing to be worried about or ashamed of. Therapy can be nerve-wracking and cause a fair amount of discomfort and anxiety. Especially if you’ve never been to a therapist before. While your nervousness about talking to someone may not completely go away in an initial consult, you’ll want to feel a bit of relief at the end of a conversation. Or at the very least, you’ll feel like it’s safe to talk about anxiety-inducing topics.

The coming out process for going to therapy can feel very scary. There is a common feeling of shame and guilt that may be passed down through family members about sharing things outside of the family. Or, there are misconceptions that family “should” be all you ever need. Especially within Filipino/a/x families, there is a common idea that the parent’s success is the child’s success. Or, the idea that the child’s failure is reflective of “bad” parenting. Needless to say, (AND, without delving too deep into this rabbit hole) you going to therapy does not mean that their immigration/work/efforts are meaningless, worthless, or for not. As I learned, our parent’s/grandparent’s/ancestor’s job was to survive, and so it is our job to heal & grow. All this to say, there is no “right” or “correct” way to tell your parents you’re in therapy. Whenever you do share, it’ll probably be the day you wanted to bring in more courage, wanting to be more authentic, and seeking to build a deeper closeness with them. Perhaps this is a great subject to bring into your next session and process more with your therapist??